Measurement Problems? Check Your Credibility Chain

Which of the following is the biggest obstacle to better measurement of the payback on marketing investments:

A)                  Lack of data;
B)                  Low measurement skills;
C)                  Drowning in a thousand metrics; or
D)                  Low credibility in the eyes of key stakeholders?

While data and skills are critically important components of measurement success, there is no single obstacle more formidable than lack of credibility.  Data, after all, can be estimated within reason.  Skills can be "rented" while they are being developed.  But credibility either exists or it doesn't.  And if it doesn't, the road back can be long and winding.

Credibility is so crucial because so much of marketing measurement involves making assumptions. You make assumptions about the impacts of tactics on prospects; assumptions about the interaction effects between tactics; assumptions about the effects of macroeconomic forces; etc. For every assumption, there is an element of credibility in both the assumption and the assumer. In other words, there are dozens or even hundreds of places where cracks can form in the credibility of any measurement framework.

Managing the credibility of any measurement effort can be broken down into four elements, each of which are necessary to preserve the "credibility chain."

Aligment. First, measurement efforts must be seen to be aligned to the needs of the business.  Key questions being answered need to be clearly linked to the success of the business in both the current and future perspectives. In addition, those key questions need to be seen as worthy of the resources being allocated to pursuing answers, and "material" to the decisions the business will face.

Comprehensive measurement framework. Once aligned, measurement effort needs to be seen as comprehensive. Every relevant dimension must be explored fully to leave no stone unturned in search of insight.  If there are 100 stones that need to be uncovered and you only explore 99, you get no credit.  Rather, you figuratively get hit in the head with the 100th stone by those who feel you may have conveniently ignored it for fear it contained secrets that would undermine your arguments.

Objectivity. But even being comprehensive isn't sufficient -- you need to also be seen as objective in your assessment of what you find under each rock -- identifying both the supporting and refuting evidence observed. Yet objectivity is difficult for marketers, who tend to see the world through rose-colored glasses, hoping that things they try will work in the marketplace. That's a natural psychological mechanism in a profession where small failures happen every day on the path to learning. It just needs to be counterbalanced by a concerted effort to question those optimistic tendencies, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that your primary concern is truth, not "proof."

Accountability. And finally, when that aligned, comprehensive, objective assessment gets translated into recommendations for how money should be spent, accountability is the perceived result. And people who are seen to be accountable are usually entrusted with more resources and responsibilities.

When you line each of these components up, the end result is credibility in measurement.

If your key stakeholders as questioning the credibility of your measurement efforts, chances are your credibility chain is broken somewhere.  Take a look back to see if you have clear alignment on what questions you are answering and how they are prioritized.  Ask yourself if there are any other "rocks" that could be turned over. Test your observations with others to see if they are seen as objective. And then check to ensure your recommendations are directly linked to the insights you've gained in the process.

It clearly takes more effort to build and preserve a credibility chain than it does to throw ad-hoc metrics and data at your key stakeholders. But doing so is almost always an investment that leads to longer, more successful tenure in senior marketing roles.

Tags: metrics
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1 comment about "Measurement Problems? Check Your Credibility Chain".
  1. Anthony White from Media Twister Partners , September 7, 2010 at 6:03 p.m.

    Valuable checkpoints--expressed in a readily accessible model--for at once building trust and trustworthiness into the entire marketing cycle! Nicely thought through and expressed!